I honestly believe that Remembrance Day (or Veteran's Day as it was in the States when I grew up) does a significant and and lasting disservice to veterans of all wars and to our nations in general, at least in its modern incarnation. One would have to be blind not to see that Remembrance day has become not an effort to remember the horrors of war and need to avoid armed conflict in the future, but rather has become an exercise in blind patriotism. I think that an argument can be made that certain armed conflicts in, say, the past hundred years have been necessary, or even justified. But one would have to be deeply ignorant of 20th century history to imagine that the lion's share of armed conflicts that the Western nations have been involved in during the last century had anything to do with freedom or democracy. Such a claim is, quite frankly, counterfactual. But the 'patriotic' element in the Remembrance Day process has come to spin the events this way for a couple of reasons. The first is that no one wants to believe that any of the soldiers who were killed (on our side that is) died fighting for some ignoble goal; as though if we suggest that soldiers of the line were somehow duped into fighting for the wrong reasons, this belittles them as men. Another reason that this spin on on war must continue is that we continue to fight in wars that are part of a Western Capitalist agenda of money and geo-politics. And so the History Channel airs movie after movie that portrays our "good soldiers" on the one side and the the "bad guys" on the other. And on Remembrance Day everyone seems to forget that war is, almost literally, 'hell,' and a real and meaningful Remembrance Day would do a proper service to veterans and nations if we recalled all the terrible things of which our own country and our allies have been guilty as well as the good things. This would help us remember that war should be avoided at all costs and that the silent victims of war such as the millions of women that have been raped and children that have been killed and abused over the past hundred years in armed conflict are all too easily forgotten on these days when we are supposed to remember. My great-grandfather was in the First World War, a pointless horrible conflict that was really about colonialism, and he suffered from mustard gas poisoning. He blamed the leaders and the rich for the war and he hated war ever after. And it is his stories of the war that come down through our family. He believed that the war was committed in the service of big capital and that the workers were the cannon fodder for a battle over business turf. People can suggest all day long that I am disrespectful of the veterans, but as far as I am concerned each Remembrance Day is deeply disrespectful of my great grandfather because people have tried to romanticize and justify the slaughter of innocents and average workers.
For all these reasons, on Remembrance Day, I chose to remember all the horrible things that all sides in all armed conflicts have engaged in, as well as all the silent victims of our bombs and our guns that had nothing to do with the choices of the leaders and the elites. And if I want to really remember who gave us our freedoms, I recall all the Unions activists like my Grandfather Thomas Evans who spent his life fighting for workers rights, human rights, and democracy - not against foreign invaders but against the capitalists and the elite of his own country who did everything they could to keep such rights away from the people. If you are looking for someone to thank for your freedoms, go to your nearest union and you will find people that are fighting everyday to save our country from tyranny, and remember it is not vague, faceless enemies from across the sea somewhere that are the threat to your rights, it is people right here at home like Stephen Harper. Remember that!
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